December 27 2014

First Time Home Buyers Tips

If you’ve ever owned a home, then you know the feeling of accomplishment, pride and joy that comes along with it. There are almost always some inevitable obstacles that you must overcome as a homeowner too, however and you have to take those into consideration when buying your first home. Setting yourself up for failure is the obvious thing to avoid here, so let’s talk about your goals. Not your short term goals about when you’re going to deal with the scratch marks on your car door, but about your long-term homeowners goals. Buying a home is a big responsibility and a whole lot of work and you have to be ready for the unexpected.

If you’ve been renting, you may feel like you’ve been throwing money away on a place that will never be your own and you may be correct, but you need to know your boundaries. Especially the financial ones. First, you have to consider how much of your income is going to your rent currently. We’ll say you are paying $1200 to rent your condo per month. Your other bills may push your total “home” expenses up around $1600 per month. You look at a nice little house just outside the city and find that your mortgage will only be $1000 per month, with utility bills around the same. So you could potentially be saving a few hundred dollars per month, while building equity in your very own home. Now here’s the thing that most first-time home buyers don’t think about. Do you remember all of those “problems” that you could just call your landlord about? Dish-washer died, AC Unit stopped working, leaking shower is draining into downstairs wall, etc… All of those repair problems, are now yours. You need to have a smart budget and have money set aside for said emergencies.

That leads us to knowing your limits. You need to set a price range for your dream home and stick to it, no matter the circumstance. You want to be completely independent and own your own home and you can do it, but you must be smart about it. When you go to talk to your bank about how much money they will loan you, you have to remember these important factors.

  • What kind and size of home do I really need?
  • How much can I truly afford? Other debt, property taxes, neighborhood fees, utilities
  • What features do I want / need in my home?
  • What is my cut-off price for the home I’m bidding on?
  • Who is going to help me with all of the ins and outs of my purchase? Your Realtor is going to be a huge part of your ultimate decision. Don’t forget them.

After you have worked out what you can afford, there are going to be some very important things that you have to consider and be prepared for. It is indeed a rare occasion that everything goes according to plan, so here are some pointers to help smooth out the bumps of your first home buying experience.

  • Search areas / neighborhoods that you like, check the listings, both online and on paper. Make sure your realtor has a vivid description of what you want and it’s always a good idea to let your connections know that you are looking as well (family, friends, co-workers, church, etc).
  • Make sure that you can afford the down-payment on any home you are interested in. It is always a good idea to try and get the closing costs taken care of in the initial bargaining too. That alone can save you a truckload of money and time.
  • Be ready for the ping-pong game of offer vs. counter-offer. We stated this earlier, but mak
  • e sure you know your limits. Have a price plateau and stick with it. You may be able to talk the

  • evious homeowners down, but stick with your plan and stay within your budget.
    4) If you reach an agreement on the price of the home, there will be an Escrow period, when you will have usually a month to get the house inspected and finalize the offer. If everything is good and both parties have reached a final agreement, then you can close.
  • The last few responsibilities that you will have will probably include checking the title to ensure that no other person(s) have a claim to the home and then having the house appraised.

There are a million other things to do after you move in, but that will be for another time! Congratulations on your new home and taking such a huge step in this amazing thing that we call life!

December 07 2014

Christmas Decorations Safety Tips

There is nothing like the feeling you get when you put up your Christmas decorations. Many families get together and put up their Christmas tree as a family holiday tradition. Dad goes outside and puts up thousands of lights on the roof and around the house, while mom and the kids put up garland and lights around the yard and on the guardrails. Seeing thousands of tiny Christmas lights is quite beautiful, but there are some safety concerns that should be addressed and here are some tips to help keep your holidays jolly and emergency room free!

  1. Lets begin with your lights and decorations. When putting up Christmas lights, make sure that you use Canadian Standards Association certified lights. They are guaranteed to be safe for your home. When decorating outside, never put lights or decorations on your handrails as they can be a hazard when walking up or down stairs during slippery conditions.
  2. Always inspect each set of lights before placing them on or in your home. Frayed or exposed wires can be a fire hazard and should be repaired or removed immediately. It’s a good idea to replace any burnt out or broken blubs too.
  3. When choosing lights, remember to use lights in their properly marked place. Outdoor lights typically have extra insulation or weatherproof coatings that make them safe to use outdoors, while indoor lights do not. Using outdoor lights inside can be just as hazardous, as they sometimes burn brighter than indoor lights.
  4. If you choose to burn candles, make sure they are kept at a safe distance from curtains or anything else that they could catch on fire. Don’t ever leave them unattended, as a pet or child could easily knock one over and cause a fire. It is best to place candles on stable surfaces.
  5. Make sure not to overload your outlets. Electrical outlets with too many plugs can short out and cause a fire or damage your homes wiring. It is best to keep cords free and never underneath furniture, carpets or rugs when they may overheat.
  6. When choosing your Christmas tree make sure to get a tree that is healthy and green. A strong, freshly-cut tree can help avoid fires. Remove any dead or weak branches and anything else on the tree that could be a safety hazard to your family.
  7. Make sure not to set up your tree next to any open flames and make sure it has plenty of water to keep it from drying out.
  8. When decorating your tree, make sure that any breakable ornaments are secure on your tree. It is best to use decorations that are flame resistant.
  9. When placing your lights, make sure there are no loose ends that could fall into the water that is keeping your tree fresh and green.
  10. Fireplaces are great to have during the holiday season, but use common sense when using them. Some simple tips are keep your smokestack clear, only use seasoned wood, never use gasoline or kerosene to start a fire indoors and always use a screen in front of your fireplace to protect from flying sparks and loose embers.

With these tips and a little common sense, you are well on your way to having a safe and happy holiday season!